Another hurdle has been getting interviewees to share their honest views and stories, even when that includes difficulties and sometimes failures. During her stay in Sri Lanka, Marie Stissing Jensen realized the importance of drinking tea, taking breaks together, and having informal conversations.
“Of course people want to share their successes, and I do not see that in any way as problematic. But I was interested in the everyday practices and struggles of the development practitioners, and to get to a deeper level of understanding. During breaks is when people start to open up. And that’s where you often gain some insights and new ideas, that would not otherwise have presented themselves", says Marie Stissing Jensen.
She emphazises the importance of building trust and relationships during fieldwork, and the need for the researcher to give some of oneself as well. According to Marie Stissing Jensen, the small talk and feedback during teatime also prove the importance of fieldwork.
Those kinds of interactions would not have been possible if I hosted interviews online. And I would not have had the same understanding of things if I hadn’t been there in person, she says.
However, Marie Stissing Jensen acknowledges that unofficial interviews can raise ethical concerns.
“How much of what is said can I use in my research and how can I use it?”.
After a month of observations, 12 recorded interviews, and numerous informal meetings, Marie Stissing Jensen left Sri Lanka for Kathmandu in Nepal where she resided until mid-December. As she previously used to live and work in Nepal and is familiar with both the culture and language, she found it easier to navigate Nepalese society.
“For example, I know that different last names indicate what caste a person belongs to. That makes me understand the power relations between people better”, she says.